Friday, June 29, 2012

Oldest Black Church Recognized by the White House

AUGUSTA, GA - Augusta had five black churches before the end of Civil War, in an era when formalized assembly of African Americans was frowned upon, if not illegal, in most parts of the South.  In addition to Springfield, Thankful Baptist, Trinity Christian Methodist Episcopal, Central Baptist, and Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Churches all had their own buildings.

After emancipation Springfield was the center of educational and political activities for Augusta’s black citizens. The Augusta Baptist Institute was founded in 1867 in Augusta's Springfield Baptist Church, eventually moving to Atlanta to become Morehouse College. The Georgia Equal Rights Association was founded in Springfield in 1866. This association evolved into the Republican Party in the state.

African American churches initiated efforts to educate Freedmen after the Civil War, first at a former wagon factory turned shoe factory by the Confederate government on 9th and Ellis Streets.  Other notable African American educational institutions established in Augusta after the Civil War include Reverend Charles T. Walker’s Walker Baptist Institute; Ware High School, Georgia’s first public high school for African Americans, built in 1880 by the Richmond County Board of Education and later the subject of a Supreme Court case that legalized the practice of segregated education; Lucy Laney’s Haines Normal and Industrial Institute; and Paine College, a joint effort of the black and white Methodist churches. Shiloh Baptist Association founded Shiloh Orphanage in 1902 to provide housing, care, and education for black children without families.

The SBC recognition by the White House was announced during the Richmond County Commission meeting on June 28.

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